“I can’t believe after 20 years we have restrooms,” said Susan Berkompas, chair of Vanguard’s theatre department.
This long overdue renovation has been the 20-year-old dream for Berkompas, who knew her department needed this as soon as she came to the job. In fact, the reason the department is thriving today is due to her efforts.
For anyone who has attended a production at the Lyceum Theatre, this is huge news. It has even become a joke amongst VU students and patrons of how far people have to walk during intermission. But now not only does the department get restrooms, they are getting an entire makeover.
“I’ve seen four sets of ground plans of a new theatre in over 20 years.,” Berkompas said.
The renovations of the Lyceum Theatre was not apart of the current administration’s building plan. With strategic marketing and creativity, the department was able to convince the school administration to allow her to source the project herself, according to Berkompas.
Berkompas, who holds a Master of Fine Arts in acting and directing, a highly competitive and well-respected title, started from humble beginnings and has since built the Theatre Department into a well-oiled machine, with a distinct reputation for fostering an ambitious and compelling program.
“I was charged with building a theater program from ground zero,” Berkompas said.
But the renovations have not been the only battle. Overarching growth and reach of the VU Theatre Department has been a struggle. One of the earliest struggles was helping people see how a Theatre Department falls into a small private Christian community, Berkompas explained.
From a small and humble department beginning and being scenes as an ugly “stepchild”, to now being a successful department with three different majors, Berkompas added.
“Vanguard is one of three Christian Universities in the nation that has NAST [National Association of Schools of Theatre] accreditation,” Berkompas said.
Phase one of the renovations included restrooms, extra storage space for the department, and a backstage area complete with a dressing room and greenroom. Berkompas is most excited the new black box theatre space that will come in phase two of the project.
She has not only succeeded by seeing the renovations come to life but continually gives everything she has to students and the Department as a whole.
“My goal is to train up our students…to be able to work in the world and once they get there they are able to bring the light of Christ with them,” Berkompas said.
Berkompas may have some scars from the battle for progression in the Theatre Arts Department but is far from jaded. She still holds the same vigor and passion as when she first arrived.
“I’ve poured everything into this department…it’s my life’s work. Now I’m starting to really see the fruit…It’s been a ride, an adventure but I’m not done yet,” said Berkompas.